Aythya Alisineria – Canvasback

Aythya Alisineria - Canvasback found in the US

Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is a diving duck species that is the largest in North America. Its name comes from the pale gray back and white sides that are finely dotted and lined in a wavelike pattern reminiscent of canvas fabric.

Quick Overview: Aythya Alisineria – Canvasback
Body size: Around 19-24 in (48-61 cm) and a weight of 1657 g (58.48 oz).
Main colors: Brown, Black, Gray, White
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: January, February, December
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Canvasback Description

Females are pale brown in color, whereas males are chestnut and black, and have a grayish body rather than a white one. Males have brown heads and necks with a paler bodies in late summer and early fall.

Aythya Alisineria - Canvasback found in the US
Aythya Alisineria – Canvasback. Photo by: James St. John


These birds have a length of 19-24 in (48-61 cm) and a weight of 1657 g (58.48 oz). Their wings could range from 28-36 in (71-97 cm).


The canvasback feeds mostly by diving, occasionally dabbling, and primarily on seeds, buds, leaves, tubers, and roots, as well as snails and insect larvae. Apart from its namesake, wild celery, the canvasback favors the tubers of sago pondweed, which can account for up to 100% of its diet at times.


The canvasback breeds in North American prairie pits. It prefers to nest above water in permanent prairie wetlands that are bordered by emergent vegetation such as cattails and bulrushes that provide safe shelter.


Canvasbacks are active during the day, are very sociable, and travel between breeding and non-breeding ranges on a seasonal basis. They move in loose V-shaped flocks and are one of the most aerodynamic ducks.

Aythya Alisineria Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Aythya
  • Species: Aythya valisineria

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the winter season (December to February).

Distribution of the Canvasback in the USA

The Canvasback breeds primarily in southern Canada’s prairie-parklands, with wintering populations concentrated along the Atlantic Coast (Chesapeake Bay and Pamlico Sound, North Carolina), the Mississippi River delta and delta lakes in southern Louisiana, and the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays in California.

The Canvasback can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Aythya Alisineria – Canvasback

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